Blackjack is a very popular game, both online and offline. It is easy to learn but can take a lifetime to master if you want perfect play. Unlike games such as roulette and sic bo, blackjack is an intriguing mixture of luck and skill – the decisions you make during a round of blackjack will impact the outcome of the game. Also, a decision made by an individual player at the blackjack table can impact the outcome for everyone. You decide to take an additional card, and that turns out to be the ace that would have given the dealer a blackjack. Or you decide to stop, and the dealer ends up with a king on her jack instead of a seven. No wonder that online and live blackjack is such a popular game worldwide.
In various incarnations, blackjack has been around for at least four centuries – albeit under other names and with slightly different rules. Anyone who has read Miguel de Cervantes’ book “Rinconete y Cortadillo” – published in the early 17th century – knows that a card game called Twentyone was played by some of the characters. Back then, a 48 card deck was a common choice for Twentyone.
The version of Twentyone where you get a special prize for certain 21 point hands developed in the United States. Gambling halls tried out various gimmicks to attract players and make the game more exciting, and one of these gimmicks was to pay extra well on winning 21 point hands consisting of a jack of spades + a black ace. From this, today’s Blackjack eventually emerged.
The point system for blackjack
Before you start wagering money on blackjack, it is important to understand how the point system works.
- A ace is worth 1 point or 11 points, depending on what’s best for the hand at any given moment.
- Kings, Queens, Jacks and Tens are all worth 10 points each.
- The other cards are worth their numerical value. A nine is worth 9 points, an eight is worth 8 points, and so on.
In modern standard blackjack, colors and suits are not relevant.
As always, it is important to learn the rules of the specific table you wish to play at because some BJ tables have special rules that diverge from the standard.
You play against the dealer
When you play blackjack, you need to beat the dealer’s hand to win money. You don’t compete against the other players at the table – only against the dealer.
Hand rankings in blackjack
The best hand in blackjack is a hand consisting only of an Ace + A Ten Point Card.
The second best hand is any other 21 point hand.
Then, the hands follow in descending order. 20 points is better than 19 points, 19 points is better than 18 points, and so on.
A hand worth 22 points or more is automatically a lost hand in blackjack.
- If your hand reaches 22 points or above, the dealer will immediately take away both your wager and your cards, and you are no longer in the game.
- If the dealer’s hand reaches 22 points or above, any player hand that is still on the table will get paid regardless of how low it is. This is why you sometimes see skilled BJ players stopping with just a 12 point hand and refusing to take another card – they know their low hand will still win if the dealer gets 22 points or more.
This is important to remember in blackjack: you don’t need to be close to 21 points to win, you just need to be closer than the dealer.